Our B-17F was one of the hundreds to leave the Boeing Factory in Seattle in February of 1943. Fortunately, she was used as a training aircraft for the remainder of World War II, and as a result, escaped the fate of most of her sisters who went to Europe, never to return to the United States.
In 1945, after her service to the United States Air Force, significant modifications were made to enable her to become a crop duster. Unfortunately the chemicals used were very corrosive so that when she was obtained by Bob Richardson, she was in bad shape.
She was flown to Renton Boeing where she underwent a total restoration by members of the Boeing Management Assocation – who named her “Boeing Bee”. On completion of the airworthiness flight tests, she led an exciting life starring in several movies.
This website covers the restoration and that history in great detail. Out of the original 12,731 aircraft, our “Boeing Bee” is the only B-17F left, and is intended by the many dedicated volunteers who have worked on her, to be a fitting tribute to the thousands of young men who flew in B-17’s, too many of whom perished in WWII.
This Boeing built B-17F, Serial 42-29782 was spared from scraping at Altus, Oklahoma after the war when Pete Moll of Stuttgart, Arkansas, obtained the Fortress (for $350.00) from the Altus boneyard and displayed his “Great White Bird”, as it was nicknamed, in Stuttgart.
By 1963 N17W was painted gray and white, and sported its registration number prominently on the broad of vertical tail, along with call sign 84E. A tarp covers a dorsal loading hopper as N17W rests at Dobbins Air Force Base, Marietta, Ga. during a fire ant poisoning project. Photo by Frederick A. Johnson.
Back about 1953, Max Biegert bought the “Great White Bird” and disassembled it for the trip to the Stuttgart, Arkansas, airport, where he rebuilt the B-17F for Flight. Max Biegert Collection.
Carrying the Biegert name, the former “Great White Bird” was licensed as N17F on the civil aircraft register. It was fitted with two large drop tanks which carried spray for pest control programs. Brothers Max and John Biegert found their B17F entangled in legal red tape, but after threading their way through government road-blocks, they established clear title to the old warplane and launched it on a long career as a sprayer and fire bomber. Photo circa 1953, courtesy Max Biegert.
N17W was leased to central Aircraft Co. of Yakima Wa. and is shown spraying DDT to kill gypsy moths over Lansing, Mich. Photo courtesy of Richard L. Baxter via the Boeing Co.